Graham Fink Ogilvy China

7654 2018-04-08 14:00

What Is in Graham Fink’s Mind, When He Leaves Ogilvy China?

Reporter: Cindy
After six years working for Ogilvy China as Chief Creative Officer, Graham Fink decided to leave the company and China for now, at the end of February. Graham came here in July 2011, and for some reason he stayed. What attracted him here? Why leave now? Today, we bring these questions to his office in Shanghai, and interviewed him about his time here, advertising and China. 
Q: You have been working and living China for such a long time, do you still remember why you want to come here, back to that time?
A: One of the main reason is because of the challenge. It always has been a challenge, and I am very pleased I made the move. What attracted me is jumping into the unknown, and to visit and learn a new opposite culture. China is a big country and it changes very fast. I am still learning about it. The way Chinese people look at things in an interesting way and it is different with westerners.
Q: What’s the difference between advertising in China and abroad?
A: In the west, we use a lot analogies. For example, if a car has 800 horse power, we might use 800 horses running in a desert to show that. But the analogies don’t work so well here. People want it to be more straight forward. To me, what is important is to make it understandable to the audience in China, but in the mean time I am trying to give the public something different. However, Advertising in the U.K. has been around for many decades, the level of sophistication is different from here, people understand more when we imply things. The way of working is different, in China people tend to work in larger groups, but in the U.K., we just have a copywriter and art director.
Q: Tell us about a particular piece of work you remember?
A: We did a campaign for SoHo China; our concept was that a monkey was launched into space and got kidnaped by aliens. I think it’s a wonderful concept and I have lots of great memories about it. We also did a piece of work for Coca-Cola which won the Grand Prix in Cannes. Now it is the most awarded ad in Coca-Cola history. We are so proud of that.
SoHo China
Coca-Hand Ad
Another campaign was to encourage people to visit the U.K. and give Chinese names to British places, landmarks and people. It was hugely influential. It was kind of ironic, as the British used to roam the world giving English names to everything. So now we invited the Chinese to return the favour.

Give Chinese Names to British Places
Q: How was your life in China?
A: I like photography, and took thousands of photos in China. One thing that interested me is the many building sites in Shanghai. They pull down the old residential houses and build modern office blocks instead. In many ways, I find this quite sad. But I understand it, it is about progression. I visited many other cities, but recently went to Harbin. It was incredibly cold but fascinating. The Ice sculpture there is quite extraordinary.
Q: What is your opinion to the advertising market in Shanghai?What about Chinese market?
A: Shanghai is more Western, and you get the mix of East and West very strongly. Therefore, the ideas here are more interesting too. The market is unique, sometimes when we test our work here it researches yet it may fail in Beijing.  This poses a challenge to create work that works right across China. The different provinces have different cultures and dialogues. It is not easy. We should be helping the progress by coming up with ideas that make people think. Everything we do becomes part of the culture.
I like the “can do” attitude, here. A lot of people and brands want to do world class work, and it is up to us to help them. I believe the best work yet hasn’t done.
His Office in China
Q: In the past 6 years, is there any changes about the definition of good creativity in your mind? What kind of creativity you don’t like?
A: It’s difficult to do great work. First you need to sell something really fresh and different to your client, and you must then go through research - and one of the problems with research is that people often don’t know how to react to something entirely new. The budgets here are not big overall, and to craft something great takes a lot of time and can be expensive. 
His office in China
I don’t like complicated ideas or bad design. But unfortunately, a lot of ads we see in the street (posters) and many ads online are badly designed, with no craft. I believe this is damaging Chinese culture. I think a lot of people see these things and either don’t understand them because they are too complicated or they just look ugly.
Moreover, some online ads are 4 or 5 minutes long and have no real idea in them. I think that is just wasting someone’s life.
Q: What do you think the difference between Chinese advertising with other countries? What things can Chinese advertising improve?
A: A lot of things in Chinese advertising are copied; it needs to be more original. It’s a big problem now. Many clients are not comfortable with something very fresh or original, it scares them. So, they often ask for something they’ve seen before. They want references of something that’s already been done. For example, look car advertisements here, they are mostly all the same.
The only way to change this, is if agencies push back strongly and work closely with their clients to try and resolve these issues. If trust can be gained then that’s when real breakthroughs can be made. It is possible, and we have done it before with a few clients, but it still has some way to go before China is producing world-class work consistently.
Q: How much do you know about Chinese local agencies, especially some in-house agencies? What’s the main difference between 4A agencies and these ones? Do you think the best time of advertising has faded away?
A: People have showed me some work done by small agencies, there are some interesting things going on. For small agencies, there are many entrepreneurs, they have strong philosophy to do or not do something. I think the best time for advertising is yet to come. All of the new technology like AI and VR are open opportunities for advertising. It’s changing the way we communicate with people. I think it is good to not know what to do next. Good creative people embrace change.

His Working Desk
Q: What’s the biggest impact on yourself when working in Ogilvy China these years?What is the biggest accomplishment for you?Do you have any regrettable things in those years?
A: One thing is to know there are many ways to doing things, it has opened my mind about different ways of working. I respect those different views and thoughts. My biggest accomplishment is building the creative department and building the culture.
You need people to work together and help solve each other’s problems rather than trying to do everything solo. There are so many skills needed now that it is really the only way to work.
If there is one regret it is I wish I could have visited more places here; that, and learning Chinese. I tried hard, but I guess you always can try harder.
Q: What’s your future plan after leaving Ogilvy China? Why leave?
A: I have had an amazing time here and learnt so much, but it is also tiring, so I am now going to take a good break. I have plans to look many other things. I am also interested in new technologies, especially AI. This last year I have been thinking about my next step, I can’t be here forever.
Q: You always pay much attention to finding and training young creatives, do you have some words to say for the new advertising man?
A: Finding and working with young talent has always been my passion. I’d say to them:Be yourself, follow your heart, not your head. You will be amazed by what happens.
And find yourself a mentor. When times are difficult, you need to talk with them. Sometimes it is difficult to do all on your own.


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